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by Dave Todd

Fentress County is located in north-central Tennessee on the eastern side

(Mar. 8, 2011) — Many of us here in Tennessee have been following your articles about corruption in this state and believe that many of your readers elsewhere in the world might just have some difficulty believing that such abuses, denial of due process and/or civil rights could be happening in the United States at this point in history.

Parts of Tennessee, Georgia, the Western Carolinas, and Kentucky have a very unique history, terrain, culture and set of circumstances which set the people in this area somewhat apart from the rest of the country. The rest of the world sometimes catches a glimpse of this unique culture through country music and movies such as Coal Miner’s Daughter, O Brother Where Art Thou, Deliverance, etc. However, such images are incomplete.

For well over a hundred years, this area was remote and inaccessible to outsiders and outside influence.  In recent years, improvements in transportation, highways, satellite television and the computer opened this area to the outside world.

Historically a few families in each community were able to accumulate some wealth and open some kind of business. Understandably there was considerable intermarriage among the wealthier families which helped them increase their wealth power and influence over their dirt-poor neighbors. The dirt-poor members of the community had little or no assets, cash, little or no education and were therefore completely subservient to their wealthy neighbors. The more affluent members of the community provided what few jobs there were at slave labor wages, provided credit at local businesses and and even to a great extent controlled the local barter conditions. The poor and underprivileged had no choice but to accept these conditions in order to just survive under the most primitive of living conditions.  Of course, they knew no difference, so it was not hard to accept.

World War II brought many changes as young men were taken out of the hills and began to see how other cultures lived.  Upon their return, many left the hills to seek employment in the north or in the big cities. The Federal Government began introducing other new concepts such as social security, welfare, disability, food stamps, etc. Once this started, the poor and underprivileged had some actual cash to spend which gave them some degree of freedom and independence.

At first the affluent families welcomed this influx of government money since it was not difficult to relieve the poor people of what little cash they were receiving. However, as time progressed some of the poor people learned to manage their money and began to challenge the people of influence.

Since the affluent families had controlled these communities for decades, it is quite understandable why they are not about to relinquish control without a fight. In this county, the rules they established for local elections are almost unbelievable; there is no primary or runoff, so it is easy for a small group to stack the deck to the point that the entire local electoral process is a farce.  The current COUNTY EXECUTIVE WON THE ELECTION BY ONLY 23% OF VOTES CAST. Few, if any, elected officials have ever won office with more than 30% of the votes cast. The current county government consists of a County Executive, ten Commissioners and a Sheriff who are all related, as is the owner of the local newspaper. These families also own or have interests in various business throughout the county; therefore, they have control of the local job market and, to a large extent, can determine just who has a decent job.

In this state we have a Sunshine Law which requires all issues be decided in an open forum with public participation. Our elected officials ignore this law, as decisions are made in closed-door sessions and then introduced in an open forum to create an illusion that the Sunshine requirements were met.  Recently a 49% property tax was imposed upon the taxpayers of this community in clear violation of the SUNSHINE LAW because understandably there were considerable objections to such an abusive tax increase. One individual who attempted to voice opposition was forceably removed from the meeting by one very big deputy sheriff. This act got considerable media attention, including Knoxville television, since it was a clear violation of due process and the individual’s civil rights.

In the last decade or so, many communities in this area have started using the justice system and mass incarceration as a means to control and reprogram the underprivileged, poor people and even outsiders in the community as well as generate revenue from the government benefits they are receiving by imposing bail, fines and court costs. SINCE JUSTICE IS NOW A BUSINESS, little, if any, justice remains.

Throughout the area, multimillion-dollar massive incarceration centers are being promoted and built in communities with large populations of poor and underprivileged citizens, high unemployment and/or many individuals drawing disability checks. In an effort to promote the proposed JUSTICE CENTER (JUST-US) center in this community, the current jail was allowed to fall into a a state of disrepair and BLACK MOLD ALLOWED TO ACCUMULATE.

The new grand jury was even given a guided tour of the jail by the Sheriff who pointed out the state of disrepair and the vast accumulation of black mold in an effort to promote the need for a proposed JUST-US center. This little demonstration was poorly conceived and timed because it also included intentional overcrowding. As a result, many inmates’ health was intentionally placed at risk as many had to sleep on the floor breathing BLACK MOLD SPORES, which created respiratory problems.  One such 42-year-old individual spent 37 days sleeping on the mold-infested floor and was suffering respiratory problems when he was released on 21 January.  Upon his  release, he sought medical treatment and went to stay with his son only to die in the early morning hours of 25 January.   That was one heck of a price to pay for a CLASS C MISDEMEANOR traffic violation. Of course there is no longer a mold problem in the jail since after this individual’s death, as a no-bid contract was issued to make necessary repairs and remove the black mold problem. Another death occurred in the jail in early February that is currently under investigation.

There are numerous other horror stories that will demonstrate to just what length the corrupt public officials of this county will go in order to keep their power while keeping the general population dirt-poor and subservient.  In the coming weeks, I will be forwarding many of these stories in detail with documentation to The Post & Email.

Fentress County appears to be ahead of the curve at the present time due to the recent 49% property tax that was crammed down everyone’s throat and the proposed 10-15 million dollar JUST-US center that will impose more costs on this depressed community. People are mad and beginning to take a stand. Last week, a new group, Fentress Citizens for a Responsible Government, was formed.  There was a standing-room-only crowd at the first meeting where establishing a CHARTER FORM OF GOVERNMENT was discussed.  This is a small community, and too many people have first-hand knowledge of the corrupt activities and graft that has been on going for years. Once people discover that the ruling families are losing their power and can no longer threaten and intimidate, people will start to come forth with specific details and perhaps even documentation.  If this movement succeeds in Fentress County, it will spread to other counties as well.


Editor’s Note: As of 11:08 p.m EST, Mr. Todd reported the following update:  [The article] “already appears to have had an impact as about 11 A.M. one of the key members of the election commission resigned and a replacement was sworn in.  It was covered by local radio and the newspaper.

Update, March 12, 2011: The author of an editorial regarding the new Fentress County citizens’ group states that Fentress County is the fourth poorest county in the state of Tennessee.  He describes plans to create a “charter government” and resist the 49% tax increase which the county commissioners plan to impose on the citizens.

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  1. My husband spend a month in the Fentress County Jail in 2006. As soon as he got out he went into Fentress hospital with phenumonia for 10 days. When released it was obvious he was still not well. A week at home and he was sent, in a coma, to ICU in Cookeville. Besides having a bad heart and breathing problems he had an infection that was never identified. He died July 7 2006 after being on life support for 7 days. Just wanted him to be remembered and those of you who knew him Know who I’m referring too.

  2. Wow. Way to go Sharon. Come on, local grassroots citizens and grand juries. The internet has broken through a wall of terror and encouraged people to stand up for what is right. Power in numbers. God bless America!! ….49% property taxes, sounds like a good place to start.

  3. Way to go David! I was one of those people subjected for 51 days to the black mold. A prayer march is being organized by God in Monroe County Tennessee on Saturday April 2nd 2011, We would be honored and privileged if you could attend.

  4. Excellent article and portrayal of what has appeared for many years in many TN communities. The corruption has been accepted as commonplace for so long, many do not even know it is corruption. Some that do are so oppressed that they do not know the way up or out. Unity is needed to battle this thuggery. Malfeasance adversely affects all citizens.

  5. Be careful what you ask for.
    At the very core of our Nation is its roots. The diversity of our various ethnicities, geographic areas, colloquialisms, is what makes us America. To make us one homogeneous polity will turn us into Europe or worse.
    And one of the last bastions of this subset of American heritage is here in the southern Appalachians. The League of the South must be forgiven for some of its perceived philosophy and supported in it efforts to preserve Southern Heritage.
    When we, as Americans, loose our heritage, and it is now no longer taught in school, we will have lost our national identity and cease to exist as the Republic our founders gave us.
    My corner of God’s chosen land is more scenic than others and so has attracted the moneyed interests along with their politics. Prior to this massive influx in the last three decades, our “business” was conducted by three local families operating through a single commissioner and their “appointed” sheriff. Most recently our county voted for alcohol since it was previously dry. We live on the buckle of the Bible belt so this is clear evidence of a new “outside” voter base. We are seeing more and more evidence of progressive politics in play and the power shifting to a new power base which has nothing to do with the heritage of the southern Appalachians.
    So choose your poison carefully and make your transition with great caution. You may end up with change that you had not anticipated.